With the death last weekend of Sir Roger Bannister, I got thinking about how fast could an unenhanced human run. Sir Roger, as I’m sure you know, was the first to break the 4 minute mile barrier, on 6th May 1954 in Oxford he ran the distance in 3:59:24.
Since then the record has been broken many times, even within the first 2 months, but the rate at which faster times are recorded has been slowing down. The current verified fastest mile is 3:43:13, set by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj. In the first decade following Bannister’s epic run the record was broken 5 times, from 1964 to 1974 3 times, from ‘74 to ‘84 7 times. incidentally 5 of those were from the British athletes Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe. In 1985 Steve Cram ran 3:46:32, taking a second out of Coe’s final record, but since then it’s only been bettered twice, once in 1993 and then the current record in 1999.
It could be argued that the mile is an archaic distance, superseded by the 1500m. So nobody tries the mile any more, hence the lack of improvement. But the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body for athletics, still recognises the distance. And the 1500m (the "metric mile") record of 3:26:00, set by the same guy who holds the mile record, hasn’t been bested since he set it in 1998.
So it seems that we’ve just about reached the maximum middle distance speed for the Mark I human. Still, an average speed of 16mph ain’t so dusty, is it…
In contrast, the marathon record has been broken seven times since 2000. Still not beaten the magical 2:00:00, though. In the last 18 years the time has come down by 2½ minutes, standing since 2014 at 2:02:57. Three minutes light of that tantalising time. Maybe in the next 20 years?
Bannister went on to become a leading neurosurgeon, and was knighted in 1975. He died on Saturday, aged 88.
This morning we headed back up stream, the weather has turned again and the snow has thinned and most of the ice has gone. We even had some brief spells of sunshine!
Crossing back over the border into Wales.
Murky on the hills
Those spectacular icicles in Chirk Tunnel have now gone.
Still unbroken ice on Chirk Marina’s basin though.
We went through Whitehouse Tunnel as well, then pulled up between the tunnel and Whitehouse Bridge.
Looks like being a good day tomorrow. We’ll be heading to Pontcysyllte, if there’s room and it’s not too icy in Trevor Basin we’ll cross the aqueduct and moor there for a few days.
Locks 0, miles 3